Survey: Olympia is a desirable place to live

Nearly 75 percent of participants in a recent survey said Olympia is a desirable place to live, but they provided mixed reactions about their satisfaction with local government services.

The city hired Elway Research Inc. to gauge public opinion on city government priorities and performance. The survey was conducted from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3.

However, City Manager Steve Hall said the city will work with Elway to connect with more renters and younger residents — two under-represented demographics in the survey.

About 52 percent of survey participants are ages 51 and older. About 84 percent own their homes, and 24 percent identified as retired. The U.S. Census reports Olympia’s median age is 37 years old.

“A big challenge for any government right now is to try to communicate with the younger generation,” Hall said. “I don’t think we can assume (the survey) represents everyone in the community.”

Participants were chosen from the city’s utility customer base, and rated the importance and performance of 14 city services. Of the 952 residents who participated, 202 were interviewed by phone, 741 completed the questionnaire online and nine people mailed in a paper version, according to Elway.

Among the survey highlights:

One section of the survey shows a “gap score” that compares the importance of a service with citizens’ expectations for that service. Arts and recreation programs were rated highest for performance relative to their importance as a city priority, according to the survey.

However, the survey rated police patrols and street maintenance as lowest for their performance relative to their importance.

“Those seem like areas people always want more,” Hall said. “No matter how much you do, there’s always an insatiable desire for more of these services.”

The Olympia City Council will be briefed on the survey results during a study session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The survey cost $28,000, Hall said, with about 25 percent of that cost coming from the city’s utility budget.